This past weekend we had the privilege of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood. We took a trip to Orlando a couple years ago, meaning we can now say we have been to all three parks! As such, below you will find the top attractions we suggest for each location to make the most out of your trips. You may notice that the Wizarding World components are at the top of each list… We are huge Potterheads in this household, and feel each park highlights different parts of the series’ world.
Universal Studios Hollywood
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Hogsmeade: Located right in the middle of the park, entering this land is like stepping into another realm! You are greeted by a conductor to your right in front of the Hogwarts Express, and then straight ahead is the village of Hogsmeade. There is so much to explore, you could easily spend half a day here learning witchcraft with your new wand from Ollivanders while sipping some Butterbeer. Don’t miss a chance at a photo op inside of the Hogwarts Express like we did (still crying) and then even if you are not a fan of thrill rides, be sure to at least go through the line for Forbidden Journey as the queue takes you through the castle. Flight of the Hippogriff is only worth a 5 to 10 minute wait… The true attraction at this wizarding land is the ambience of Hogsmeade.
Waterworld: This is the #1 rated show at the park and it is no wonder why! Every minute is packed with some sort of explosive action, to the point that we saw random fireworks and flames from it even while in the Wizarding World. There are stunts and a plane crash simulation, all that will leave you on the edge of your seats entertained. If you can only see one show, I would choose this.
Krustyland: Themed around the famous Simpson’s and their low-budget theme park, this region holds what I think is the best food at Universal Studios Hollywood along with very popular virtual reality roller coaster: The Simpson’s Ride (original name, am I right?) The ride takes place in front of an 80 foot VR dome, and feels real enough that from opening to close there is bound to be a long line! Be sure if you want to ride you are watching out for a relatively short wait time using their Universal Studios Hollywood app. I am pretty sure that these days there might literally be an app for everything.
Studio Tour: Steven Spielberg was behind the scenes on building this one, so you know it is going to be good! You experience King Kong up close and personal, race with the Fast & the Furious gang, go face to face with Amity Island’s infamous shark, and see all sorts of set designs. Need I say more?!
Super Silly Fun Land: There is honestly not much for little tykes to do at Universal Studios Hollywood, so this Despicable Me inspired carnival area is a must if you have small children with you. I can’t reiterate enough that aside from shows and the Studio Tour, it is the only area in the entire park that allows young guests to be included. Please keep that in mind if planning a trip, I do not think we would have gone had we realized that beforehand. With that being said, inside Super Silly Fun Land there is a flying spinning ride that they can go on with adults (think similar to the classic Dumbo ride at Disney) and one of the biggest splash parks I have ever seen! Our little guy got completely soaked with us and rode the twirly ride 4-5 times in a row, so I think it is safe to say it was a hit for him.
Universal Studios Florida
The Wizarding World—Diagon Alley: Hands down my favorite region of any theme park, ever. I cannot explain the overwhelming feeling of happiness I felt when I walked into Diagon Alley for the first time. Full disclosure, I cried. I felt like I was Harry Potter himself arriving and being immersed into the Wizarding World for the first time with Hagrid in Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone. Or maybe this is how Hermione felt. Regardless, it is truly indescribable and something every fan should visit and see themselves. To save money, consider buying a Wand beforehand!
At the end of the alley is Gringotts’s Bank, where inside you will find immaculate architecture and design with an interactive queue complete with goblins. They say getting past security to get inside is hard… But you learn that breaking out is a lot harder on a thrilling roller coaster, combined with motion simulation and 4D effects. I usually get motion sickness badly, but this ride is well constructed, and I didn’t have all that much of a problem with it. Outside of the bank, be sure to watch for the dragon you helped escape as it breathes fire from its mouth! To make the experience complete, there is also Knockturn Alley, which is entirely creepy and perfectly done.
Men in Black Alien Attack: A motion simulation with multiple endings/riding experiences? Sign me up! This ride is just pure fun for the kid in all of us as you get to blast aliens with a laser gun. It gets a little crazy since each time an alien fights back and hits your car, you spin! This is an attraction that is fun for the whole family, as long as everyone meets the minimum height of 42 inches.
Revenge of the Mummy: Though there is also a Mummy ride in Hollywood, I mention it here since this version has won multiple awards since it has opened for its animatronics, and mind-blowing special effects. It is an indoor roller coaster, but don’t tread on that lightly just because it is indoors—you plunge into darkness and trouble is around every turn. It is a thrill!
Curious George Goes to Town & Barney’s Backyard: Something for the littles, of course! Who doesn’t love a great playground area with kids? Our son LOVES Curious George, and while he hasn’t been able to see this area just yet, I know that he would love it! Splash parks and play structures built around a tiny city just for kids… Does it get any better? Meanwhile, Barney’s Backyard features a large treehouse and many hands-on experiences to immerse children into a world of imagination. I know the younger generation is not really growing up with Barney anymore, but it doesn’t change that this play area is a ton of fun!
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
It should be noted that this was rated #1 Theme Park in the World 2015-2018 by TripAdvisor!
The Wizarding World—Hogwarts: Hop aboard the Hogwarts Express in Universal Studios Florida (as long as you have a ticket that allows you to see both parks, which I recommend) and take it on over to Hogsmeade! The castle is breathtaking in this park. It is big, it lights up at night, and there are 3 rides in the general area that each offer a different type of thrill. If you want to tour the castle without going on the ride, they even allow you to go a separate route purely to tour it—just ask at the front! Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head are musts for food and drink, and you really should get an extra Butterbeer to just stand in front of the looming castle and admire it.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster: OK, I must admit I didn’t have time to go on this since we only were at Universal Orlando for one day, but I was impressed from the minute I saw it. It’s BIG, a lot bigger than I expected any rides at Universal to be. For a second, I had to ask myself if I was at a Six Flags, as it is clear to see the ride does in fact go over 60 miles an hour. There are seven inversions, which means it was probably for the best I didn’t go on it and get sick, but it looks like a blast! Just from seeing it and reading about it, I would suggest it to anyone who can ride.
Seuss Landing: We did not have our son yet when we visited Universal in Orlando, but I fell in love with how well-themed this area was and from that moment have been dreaming about being able to take my kids there in the future! Dr. Seuss is so wacky, silly, imaginative, and creative—what’s not to love?! There is a carousel you can take the kiddos on, and a cute trolley you can embark a journey on that takes you through beloved Seuss stories and offers a view of the park. There is also a spinning ride, along with a ride to take you through The Cat in the Hat. Characters are also sighted throughout the area!
Poseidon’s Fury: We are huge fans of Greek mythology in this home, so a show about the Greek god of the sea is right up our alley, if not simply because it offers something different that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. More than anything, it is a special effects show taking place beneath the ocean. This is one of the live shows that allows you to use a Universal Express Pass, so bear that in mind too if you decide to purchase one! Not waiting in long lines is always nice.
Jurassic Park River Adventure: At least for me, when thinking of Universal Studios my mind goes to the commercials showing a T-Rex roaring after you as you try to escape. For this reason, Jurassic Park is a staple of sorts for the park. Many would argue it is the best ride they have been on, and while I am not sure if I would say that, it is an all-around good ride.
We have not yet been to Volcano Bay which looks incredible! It is an island themed water park, and even during the cooler months in Florida the water is set to a warm 85 degrees, much like an island’s surrounding waters would be. TapuTapu is a wearable wrist key that is waterproof and allows you to get in a virtual line for attractions, as well as make payments so you don’t have to carry around a card or cash! Frankly I’m sold, and I am excited for when our son gets a bit older and we can all go enjoy a family day here. Meanwhile, Universal CityWalk at both Hollywood and Orlando is experienced best at night.
Questions? Reach out to us on our contact page or comment below!
Remember, adventure is out there!